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Biden Pledges to Step Up Vaccines in Rural Areas

From Audio: Tuesday, May 4, 2021

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President Biden will announce targeted steps to get more people vaccinated, especially in rural areas.
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President Biden will announce targeted steps to get more people vaccinated, especially in rural areas.
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today, President biden plans to announce targeted steps to try and get more people vaccinated right. About 32% of the US population is fully vaccinated but it has been going more slowly recently. Rural America is worrying for two reasons. Number one access can still be difficult and number two, demand for the vaccine is taking a dive. Yesterday. The President biden said things are getting better. We have expanded access to vaccinations to familiar places. 40,000 drug stores now. Also all of the community health centers that are available all across the nation. Mobile units going out and it's getting better and better and better. NPR's White House correspondent, Tamara keith has the details this morning. Tam. Thanks for being here. Glad to be with you. You've got exclusive information on the President's plan. What's he going to announce? Yeah, The White House wants to see more local doctors delivering shots. So the administration is asking states to give more vaccines to doctor's offices, especially in vulnerable areas with limited access to health care like rural communities. And they're also trying to sign up family doctors and pediatricians to give shots. Something that an administration official told me will be particularly critical if the Food and Drug Administration gives the okay for adolescents to start getting vaccinated. After all. Some of the most influential people in communities are local doctors and nurses and friends and family who work in the health care system. So let's talk about the problems, the slow going of the vaccine rollout in rural areas. It's been problematic in parts of the country. Yeah. And I got early access to a survey conducted by the National Rural Health Association and a group called Chartists. They reached out to rural hospital executives to get an idea of what share of their own employees are getting vaccinated. And the results have these folks worried. 30% of these executives said less than half of their staff had taken the Covid vaccine. Now keep in mind, health care workers have been eligible for vaccination for months now. Since late last year, I spoke with Jeff Tindall, who is the Ceo at Carroll County Memorial Hospital in Missouri. His hospital serves a town of about 4000 people. He said only 59% of his staff are vaccinated at this point and he really doesn't have much hope of that number growing dramatically. I made every single decision with the start and the end of those decisions. How can I protect my employees the most every decision. And yet I want to kind of help meet me halfway and let's protect you and your families and 59 percent tam. That's really hard. How can these health care workers encourage other people to get the vaccine when they themselves are doing it right? That is the concern. And he's really beside himself. But, you know, there are other hospitals in rural areas that are having a lot of luck. I spoke to folks at Memorial Hospital in Mount Washington Valley in New Hampshire, they're currently at 78% their success. They attribute to a local doctor who wrote a letter to everyone on staff that swayed a lot of people early on and a series of zoom sessions they held for staff led by doctors where they just left a lot of time to answer questions. So how is the White House is going to fix this issue when the health care workers are are reticent? Yeah. And and they know that these doctors are trusted local leaders and they need them for their vaccination plans. Here's bashar, a shoe care, the White House vaccinations coordinator. Obviously there's still some pockets and issues around vaccine confidence and we have to continue to work on that, whether in the healthcare space or in the general communities overall. But generally he's accentuating the positive because they don't want to create a self fulfilling prophecy of resistance, he told me polling has found most rural residents do plan to get the shot, even if the rates are lower than in urban and suburban areas. NPR White House correspondent Tamara keith. Thank you Tim. You're welcome.
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